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Monday, November 8, 1999 Published at 19:31 GMT

UK Politics

Refugees 'help put the Great in Britain'

Refugees introduced fish and chips to the UK

The government has been warned that its controversial Immigration and Asylum Bill takes no account of the fact that many of the UK's greatest assets - including fish and chips and the Mini car - were introduced by refugees.

"It's about time the government recognised just how much this country could have missed out on if we had closed our doors to the persecuted," Refugee Council chief executive Nick Hardwick said on Monday.

"Jobs not created, tax revenues lost, books unwritten, science unexplored," he told the group's annual general meeting. "Instead, it presses ahead with the most misguided piece of legislation to hit the statute books this decade."

[ image: The man behind the Mini, Sir Alec Issigonis, was a refugee]
The man behind the Mini, Sir Alec Issigonis, was a refugee
The bill, which is due to return to the Commons where the government is expected to overturn amendments make by the Lords, would replace cash assistance for asylum seekers with a voucher scheme, and includes measures designed to disperse them around parts of the country other than south east England.

Bill is a 'missed opportunity'

Sir Herman Ouseley, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, also addressed the meeting, calling on the government to reconsider the legislation: "Britain needs an asylum and immigration policy that is just and fair, welcoming the contribution newcomers will make to British society.

"The proposals from government on asylum and immigration represent an opportunity missed.

"Some of the measures being put in place could have a negative impact on race relations in Britain. It is not too late for the government to change tack."

Mr Hardwick said that fish and chips, the Mini car, the Ghost fashion label, and the contraceptive pill were all created by refugees.

The Refugee Council said that fish and chips were brought to east London by Jews expelled from Portugal in the 17th century, while the creator of the Mini, Sir Alec Issigonis, was a Greek who fled from Turkey.

The Ghost label was created by Tanya Sarne, the daughter of a Russian refugee, while the contraceptive pill was invented by Carl Djerassi, who fled Austria for the United States in 1938 when the Nazis came to power.

The Commons debates the bill again on Tuesday.

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